Bakery workers vote for week-long strike

Irwin's Bakery in Portadown  Photo by Google
Irwin's Bakery in Portadown Photo by Google

Talks are intensifying after workers at a well known Portadown bakery voted to strike over pay.

Representatives are in negotiations with Irwin’s Bakery after a ballot by union staff voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action.

With 330 employees, it is understood around 80 staff are in the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union.

Union Regional Officer Laura Graham revealed that the strike, due to start next Wednesday night, could last for seven days.

Irwin’s Bakery employees have not taken action against their employer since 1977.

She added: “Following a postal ballot for strike action, 80% of union members in Irwins have voted in favour of taking industrial action. This action comes off the back of pay negotiations that members rejected during an internal ballot.”

However, Michael Murphy, Chief Executive at Irwins said the door is open for negotiations.

He said that even if the workers do carry out the week long strike, it would not affect production which would carry on as normal.

The union revealed that talks had been on-going with the firm on a pay offer of a 2.1% pay rise for night shift and 2.4% for day shift with a 3% pay rise in year two.

However, this was rejected by workers who believed that their consolidated pay - in which their hourly rate is slightly higher to take into consideration overtime and weekend work - was not reflected in the pay rise. Plus there were issues over statutory sick pay and other benefits.

“The workers feel very strongly that there are no attacks on their pay or sick pay or other benefits. They feel as if the company wants to eradicate sick pay and the staff feel that this is an important safety net for those that need it,” said Ms Graham.

“The workers have not went on strike since 1977 but the door is always open to talk.

“The workers feel that there would have to be a substantial increase in the offer,” she said.

Mr Murphy said the firm was still willing to negotiate with the union and had a good relationship with them.

He believes there are only around 42 members of the union who might be going on strike which would be 25% of the workforce.

“The original offer that the union negotiated was rejected by the workers. It is still open for discussion.”

Mr Murphy said the firm had been in Portadown for 100 years and a strike would be in no one’s interests.

“Strikes do no one any good. It has not been a good year for the bakery industry in Northern Ireland,” he said, referring to Genesis and Lynwoods.

“I am hopeful we can reach an agreement,” he said.